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Circus Smarts

Written by Amy Cohen '08

Circus Smarts

There I hung, a petite 12-year-old dangling happily from a complicated web of ropes and pulleys. Having spent countless hours developing my ascent up the tree, I felt blissfully at home.

Over the years my parents made many attempts to focus my primate activity into something a bit more organized: dance, gymnastics, and rock climbing, to name a few. Exciting as all these activities were, the monkey in me wasn’t satisfied—until I attended the Purchase College Circus Arts Camp. Trained by professionals, I became devoted to circus and notorious for my quirky talent. As my skills advanced I began teaching circus arts at the camp and in my hometown.

When it came time to look at colleges, I knew that I had to be in a place that would foster my creative instincts and feed my circus cravings. Ithaca College was clearly the best choice, a school with diverse academic programs, a fabulous artistic environment, and a willingness to trust students to start their own organizations. At circus camp during the summer of 2004 I met Matt Karp, a unicyclist who also happened to be starting IC in the fall. We knew instantly that together we could bring circus arts to the Ithaca community.

Based on an in-depth proposal created our freshman year, the school funded our dream. We rounded up an enthusiastic group of members that became ICircus, Ithaca College’s very own—and only—circus club. Although most of the students had no circus experience whatsoever (our majors include speech-language pathology, math, chemistry, and music), we attained a positive reputation almost instantly. We now perform at such annual events as the Senior Class Black and White Ball on campus, the Apple Harvest Festival on the Ithaca Commons, and the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cavalcade of Youth in New York City. ICircus grows stronger with each acrobatic or juggling feat. It is so gratifying to hear our members say how thankful they are to have found their niche, a noncompetitive environment that pushes their physical and creative abilities further than they had ever imagined.

The support system at Ithaca is rich with mentors, advisers, and friends. The College not only allowed me to start my own club: it also funded my travel to Chicago to attend the Educators Conference on Social Circus, where I was inspired to pursue a career using circus arts to benefit at-risk communities. To further my career prospects, the internship coordinators at Ithaca’s London Center helped me land an internship this semester at the Circus Space, a registered charity and one of the top three circus schools in Europe.

All in all, IC has fostered my evolution into a driven, passionate, and focused woman on a mission. Some things, however, never change. When the inevitable stress of school seems daunting or I need a place to reflect, you’ll know where to find me: high atop the branches of my favorite tree, enjoying the brisk wind blowing from Cayuga Lake.



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